If there’s one thing that’s not a secret in the fashion world, it’s that fashion moves fast. Another non-secret: the industry is currently in the throes of a major disruption.
This disruption is of a magnitude that’s never been witnessed before. It’s a disruption that impacts all the makers of fashion. From the designers to sewers to material and packaging suppliers and folks that make sure products get delivered on time: these are the people who form the foundation of your supply chain. And their world is changing.
If you want to consider pursuing growth for your apparel company, you’ll need to know how to make sure your supply chain is caught up with some of that disruption.
Here are the ‘secrets’ that will enable you to do just that.
Secret #1: Changes in the Supply Chain are driven by a customer-first mentality
The first secret isn’t really a secret at all: apparel brands are keenly aware that the customer is driving change in the industry. This is the key to understanding what is driving innovation in the supply chain.
Disruption in the apparel industry is visible on two fronts but both these winds of change are related.
- At the front end, the revolution is in how brands are now listening to consumers, rather than the other way around. Instagram influencers play a large role, with the large fashion houses often taking a back seat when it comes to managing trends. This has caused the rise of “fast fashion” and the need to speed up time-to-market.
- On the back end, the industry is reacting to the customer-centric mentality, which calls for a fast, efficient supply chain to get products out quickly. Across the board, over three-quarters of companies whose supply chains are considered high-performing are enjoying greater than average revenue growth for their industries. We see real potential for sweeping, lasting change that’s driven by the need to speed up product cycles. This has caused a revolution in the way products are sourced, manufactured, packaged, shipped, and sold. The supply chain disruption sends its shock waves throughout the entire product life cycle, too. Even the way we think about disposing textiles and unsold clothing is changing.
But what does this all mean? Well, the apparel brands that keep the customer at the center of ALL that they do will gain the customer’s trust and loyalty and that will translate into more sales, a bigger brand, and accelerated growth.
Ok, you’re now in the front row as the revolution occurs. We’ll let you in on a few more secrets on how to harness the change in the apparel supply chain that can multiply revenues.
Secret #2: Implementing Supply Chain technology is the key
Do something for your company right now: make a “note to self” that the sooner you get onboard with adopting innovative supply chain technology, the better off you’ll be. Here’s why.
We’ve already mentioned that brands are finding that they need to move faster to keep up with the acceleration of processes. An automated supply chain is essential for succeeding in the “see now buy now” culture. (There’s more about how automation is helping apparel brands hit the market faster right here.)
Companies who are using technology to optimize their supply chain are finding that having a “fully integrated” company where partners communicate along the entire chain delivers tangible benefits. In fact, they are outpacing their non-integrated peers by twenty percent.
A vertically-integrated supply chain that can replenish inventory at the drop of a hat may sound like a pipe dream but it’s not. And it’s not the future, it has to happen right now if you want to serve your customers with what they want and get the cash registers ringing. Or, give them something else and sit back and watch the inventories pile up as your “yesterday” designs stay rooted to the shelves.
Secret #3: Supply Chain digitization can help you form fruitful customer relationships
Type #whomademyclothes into Instagram or Twitter and you’ll know that more and more customers are beginning to care deeply about transparency.
Stella McCartney’s sustainability campaign changed the industry in 2017 and it’s a movement that puts the responsibility squarely on the clothing brands. Consumers now expect sustainability in the products they buy and the brands they support. They demand that sourcing is ethical, materials are used more efficiently, and work conditions are fair, among other things. The purpose-driven millennial consumers want to associate themselves with brands that share the same values as them. With a digitized supply chain, you have the opportunity to make transparency the hallmark of your apparel brand and form a deep and enduring relationship with your customers that no competitor will be able to break.
Secret #4: You can use Supply Chain data to get the cash you need
With a digitized supply chain management platform, your company can gather clean, consistent data from multiple points of contact with your vendors. That can help you pinpoint inefficiencies and plug up leaks to reduce costs.
Some industries are already predicting significant cost savings — like 17.8% in the healthcare industry — as a result of data analytics. It’s cost savings like this that can help your company grow when you apply those savings to new initiatives throughout your company — initiatives like new marketing campaigns, updating software, redesigning apps, hiring talent, and more.
Now think what you could do with all that money you save? How about that great new marketing campaign you wanted to do but could not get the budget for? Or that social media storm that you wanted to whip up with Zoella Zeeba for which no funds could be allocated? More marketing drives more brand awareness and therefore more sales.
Secret #5: You can use Supply Chain data to mitigate risk and mine opportunity
Supply chain management software can also lead to insights about risks and potential, allowing you to shore up processes, source better solutions, reduce waste, and eliminate supply chain duplication. Once you’ve you’ve collected and mined the data, predictive analytics will drive deeper insights
You will be able to stock better -no more lost opportunities due to stock-outs. You will be able to prioritize better -put your marketing and distribution dollars into what is more likely to succeed. You will be able to unearth hidden trends and capitalize on them better. Essentially, you will be able to make the most of all the opportunities out there –even those you never knew existed!
And think of this: natural disasters cause an annual average economic loss of $211 billion. Nobody can predict earthquakes and floods but with the right supply chain data, companies can forecast and respond to events more efficiently. Less disruption means business keeps rolling forward and so do the profits. Furthermore, global supply chains are known to be especially vulnerable to risk — keeping a tight rein on your own supply chain by keeping it local is just the first step toward mitigating that risk. Knowing your suppliers puts you way out ahead of typical companies. In one survey of companies, it was revealed that almost three-quarters had very little knowledge about the third parties that handled the personal data of their customer and employees.
Many of these supply chain secrets revolve around data: collecting data, managing data, analysing data, and extracting insights.
In an industry like fashion, which is multi-pronged, multi-sourced, and which draws upon multiple components throughout the supply chain, seeing the big picture is often a challenge. But embracing this digitally-driven disruption will allow you to take that big-picture view. That view will help you make better decisions —the kind of decisions that will take your fashion empire from the Millions to the Billions!